Lest We Forget – “Culvert Operations”!
I knew that I was a little too pleased with my accomplishment, but I just couldn’t help it. After two, long days of puzzling, experimenting, fussing, digging and more digging I’d done it. In two road sections that had been perennially wet and muddy year around, the two culverts I’d just installed now provide a pleasing pathway for the water to go under and the road traffic to pass – mud-free – over. The work challenged me to learn to operate a complicated, new-to-us piece of equipment, engaging two feet (back and forward), both hand (each in four directions), one thumb and all of my wits. The good operators make it look so easy!
Feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, I steered the slow-moving, tracked equipment back along the well-established road leading away from my worksite. As I clanked, shook and rattled my way along the familiar road, I focused my attention on the multiple creeks over which the long-established road cleanly passes. Hellebore Creek, with its strong, tumbling flow, followed by Bear Creek quietly gliding out from the grove of cedars, and disappearing into the long culvert before rushing off down through the forest. Scanning these smooth intersections between water and road, four points of reflection came to mind:
- I considered how clean, cold water had flowed under the road – day after day – since the day the culvert was put in place over forty years earlier.
- I noticed how much better this culvert placement and road construction was than those that I had so recently congratulated myself on – layout, design, lining up a contractor with the right skill, equipment, materials, commitment and integrity to do the job right.
- This made me aware of how easily I – and most others – can overlook and take for granted the good, careful and thoughtful work, care and skill of those who preceded us, and how important it is to acknowledge the many ways that our current and future work is made possible by those who went before.
- And, finally, how my act of adding to their work – improving the drainage on the extension of the road further through the forest – builds my awareness of and gratitude for the work of others. I know well the “others” responsible for this road and I’ll thanks those who remain on the right side of the grass.
Reaching the junction, I park the machine on the siding and shut the reliable diesel down. The cooling engine pops and clicks as I shift my belongings into the truck and head toward the forest’s gate. Work in the forest always has much to teach us, when we’re open to learning. Yes, I had learned much about equipment operation, road design and culvert placement, but, more importantly, the day’s events taught me to have more appreciation, respect and gratitude for those who initiated the work that we have the good fortune and privilege to try to carry on. Driving out of the forest and off across the rolling valley I checked out each culvert, bridge, library, school, and grange hall with new eyes and appreciation. It was a good day. I sleep better thinking of the water flowing clean, cold and clear through the new culvert – day in, day out, into an uncertain future.